Into Darkness

After some thought, the Sorcerer and Cleric decided to stick with the group after all. Still, the Synthesist had been replaced by a Half-Elven Paladin, and now a Barbarian stands with them.

After a short discussion with Eviana, the group agreed to undertake a dangerous infiltration mission, into the Drow city of Zirnakaynin. To aid in this mission, an Elven necromancer from the Mordant Spire named Giseil was introduced to the group. Giseil had developed a new spell to aid the party in their goals – Recorporeal Incarnation.

In essence, Recorporeal Incarnation takes a corpse, and turns it into a disguise around the target of the spell. The target becomes the race of the corpse for all intents and purposes, gaining all physical traits of the corpse, while retaining all of his own physical traits. The spell is bound to a focus, which must remain on the person of the target. The foci provided in this case were Bloodlink amulets, which also enable the wearers to emulate several drow spell-like abillities, and cloud their intentions. The spell has a duration of 13 weeks, after which the disguising corpse withers and falls off the target.

After an hour of ritual casting, the group now had their disguises. The proposed plan was to have the group travel through the corrupted Celwynvian elf-gate, sending them to Zirnakaynin. Their story was to be that they had waited in hiding, and rushed through the defenders to the gate once it had recharged. To reinforce the veracity of the story, the group was to be pursued by a troop of Elven archers, who would shoot at the players, and any Drow guards on the other side of the gate.

The gate was opened, and the group rushed through. On the other side, they found themselves in a cavern, with a Drow camp not far from the gate. As the group approached, they were also rushed by 3 Driders. Thankfully, the group remembered their place, and allowed the Driders to pass by them and attack the Elves. The Drow guards covered the group’s retreat, while fending off the Elven troops.

As the group reached the rear of the camp, a Drow merchant emerged from hiding under a wagon, and offered to guide the group to Zirnakaynin. The group agreed, and hopped into the wagon for a ride.

The merchant introduced himself as Garak Simiryin. After hearing their stories, he offered to introduce them to the Drow Noble house of Vonnarc, where he was headed with a delivery. He promised to be able to get them new positions in the prestigious house. Seeing an opportunity to gain shelter and a better cover, the group readily agreed.

After a circuit of the city, where Garak pointed out a number of landmarks, the wagon arrived at House Vonnarc’s palace. Garak arranges to have them introduced to the Slave Mother, Undamesta. Undamesta wastes no time in interrogating the group, starting with asking the Paladin where he is from. He reflexively answered with his real homeland…and quickly realises what he has done, and covers with a madeup place name. Undamesta seemed not to notice the slip, and the rest of the interview goes smoothly. At the end, Undamesta offers them all places in the House staff.

The group splits relatively evenly between warrior and house slave, and proceeds to blend in with the rest of the staff. Despite a few early problems, the group eventually settle into the rhythm of daily Drow life, and begin to earn a measure of trust.

A few days into their duties, the Dwarven mission specialist and Paladin noticed Garak calling, and later found him emerging from their chambers. Garak claimed to have seen someone in their chambers, and of chasing them off, after which he verified their possessions were still intact, but something about his story did not ring true. Segnar was able to determine that their gear had been thoroughly searched.

Several days later, the group was sent to hunt down a group of rogue Driders. Accompanied by two Drow guards, the group quickly approached the location of the renegades, and slew them with little effort. Word of their deed spread throughout the House.

A short time after this, the group’s chambers are entered by Undamesta after hours. Undamesta seems displeased, and hisses at the group to gear up and follow her, quickly. The group was led to the Noble Terrace of the palace. They were greeted there by the sight of Tiryin Vonnarc and a female Drow merchant, both covered in blood. Behind them, in the pool, were the corpses of three naked Drow males.

Tiryin hissed ‘Why did you bring them?’. Undamesta ignored the comment, and ordered Tiryin to drag the bodies from the pool. Undamesta turned to the Drow woman, and told her that the group were trusted servants, and would escort her safely home, but she was not to ever return.

The group quickly hustled the woman, named Safan, to the stables. As they argued over the best way to leave the palace, they were attacked by a group of house guards, all clearly wearing Vonnarc-issued armour. After the battle, though, all were found to not be wearing their house signets. Leaving the bodies, the group used Safan’s riding lizards to exit the palace unseen, and escorted her home. Several days later, Safan delivered a thank-you gift, in the form of an expensive dagger (+3), and several doses of Vayav.

On Armageddon's Doorstep

Flush with success over killing a dragon, the group explored the few areas on the first floor of the observatory they had not already. Near the dragon lair, they encountered a Troglodyte warrior watching over two prisoners. Despite two of the group succumbing to the foul odour, the creature was dispatched quickly. The prisoners turned out to be the elves Kaerishiel and Shalelu, and had been badly treated in their time with the Drow. The cleric applied what aid he could, and the group left the pair to fortify their room while they went to finish clearing out the structure.

Returning to an area skipped over earlier, the group discovered a large collection of documents written in Elven, which nobody could speak. Rather than waste time, they left the documents with the injured elves to read over, and climbed the central tower of the observatory.

Two staircase wound around the outside of the tower before meeting at a landing. Seeing a Drow spellcaster on the landing, the cleric quickly cast a Silence spell, and moved to engage. The shadow synthesist and the rest of the group moved up as best they could, the stairs taking their toll on the poor dwarves. The second Drow spellcaster retreated further up the tower, out of the effect of the silence spell, sending a fireball back down behind him. The first spellcaster attempted to push the cleric off the stairs, but failed miserably, and was then quickly cut down, despite having grown claws.

The group quickly moved through the balcony, keen to not allow the second sorceror to esacpe. As they finally dispatched him, on the stairs to the top of the tower, an empowered fireball detonated as if from nowhere. A frantic search for the new threat ensued, with most of the group trying to move off the stairs. The sorceror attempted to land a fireball on the caster without luck, and the synthesist tried to Glitterdust with the same results. Nobody could sense the location of this new threat until, on the next round, another spell was cast. A Phantasmal Killer spell was unleashed on the sorceror, killing him outright from fear. The Zen archer shot the spot where the drow mage was, and landed some hits.

A readied Sound Burst targeted the mage on the next round, but he still managed to successfully cast a Shadow Evocation version of Ball Lightning, but shortly afterwards, the Zen Archer finally homed in on the threat, landing 4 out of 5 arrows through the Invisibility. The mage fell to the ground, very dead.

Searching the mage, the group found a number of valuable items, and the portal key for both the Armageddon Echo and the corrupted elf gate back at the Academy in Celwynvian. Rather than wait around for the final fireworks of Earthfall, the group exited the Armageddon Echo, and found themselves back in the Academy.

After some time spent recovering, and deciding which of the group members would continue on, the next phase of the Elven plan was revealed – the group was to don strangely effective disguises as Drow, and infiltrate the city of Zirnakaynin! Strangely, after this revelation, the Shadow Synthesist, Human Cleric and Sorceror were nowhere to be found. In their place stood a Half-elven Paladin of Pharasma, and two other strangely indefinite figures.

In Armageddon's Shadow

After an initial moment of disorientation, the group found themselves in what appeared to be Celwynvian of 10 millenia prior, the city laid out before them in all its beauty. The sky above was covered in a black cloud, eerily similar to the Blot over Riddleport, only many times larger. The dark vortex swirled overhead, looking like a massive storm.

Although the place they appeared in looked like Celwynvian, something was wrong. The light was constantly muted, and never more than twilight. The sights, sounds and textures around them were strangely muted, tastes strangely bland.

Standing near to the group upon their arrival was an Elven scholar, who was examining the overhead Blot. The group approached Ilamin, and discussed the phenomena. Ilamin told the group how he thought the Blot was simply a weather phenomenon, and would soon pass. However, a large number of the city’s inhabitants believed Armageddon had arrived, and that the city would be destroyed. Many of those had evacuated the city.

After a short discussion, a group of incorporeal, fire-wielding undead creatures called Blast Shadows attacked the group. During the combat, the scholar appeared to take no notice of the goings-on around him. The creatures were quickly dispatched.

Following the scholar’s advice, the group next visited the Library of Reenai. The Library looked much like it had when they had previously visited, only in pristine condition. Inside the Library, all of the knowledge globes were in place and intact, and the group was approached by the last Master Librarian – Eloquan, the same Eloquan occupying the one functional knowledge globe the group had recovered. Eloquan confirmed that he believes the end is coming, but he refused to abandon his library. Instead, he had recorded his own knowledge globe, and was now tending the library in its last few days. Eloquan shared with the group that he believed humanity had brought this doom upon Golaria, in punishment for their hubris before the gods. He directed the group to Ekardani or Talgoren for further information, as they are the only two humans in the city. The group asked Eloquan if he had seen any Drow, and Eloquan revealed he was unfamiliar with that word. When the group described Drow, he said that he had seen some strange looking elves recently matching that description, performing research in the Library, but he did not know where they were staying.

Once outside the library, the group discussed their next move, and quickly decided to visit the Azlanti ambassador Talgoren, rather than the Thassilonian ambassador. As they headed in that direction, a peasant elf approached the group, saying she had a message. The message quickly proved to be a ruse, as the elf attempted to kill the group. After a short battle, the elf lay dead, and reverted to the form of a Drow.

Travelling to Talgoren, the group first stopped at the local city markets, and found them deserted but for a number of Doomsayers. These elves are convinced the end has arrived, and that it has been caused by humans. The human members of the group were accosted, and they in turn tried to make these people understand it was the aboleths who were responsible. After the discussion, a pair of Babau demons attacked the group, and after a more difficult time, they were fought off. The group then continued to Talgoren’s home.

Unlike others in the city, the group found Talgoren relaxing on a divan, reading a book of poetry. He revealed that he felt confident that his people would repel this attack, and that the elves were just overreacting. He also expressed the opinion that the Blot was likely the result of one of the continuing struggles between his people and the aboleths. The group spent some time trying to convince Talgoren to warn his people, and he eventually agreed to do so. The group also asked about the strange elves, and Talgoren said that he had seen some of them at the abandoned observatory.

The group next set up camp in one of the abandoned inns of the city, and recovered their resources. The dwarven soldier availed himself of some Elven alcohol, but found it somewhat bland – strangely, even more bland than he normally finds Elven wine.

The following morning, the group prepared to assault the observatory. They quickly fought through the front door guards, and then through the next group of guards. A trio of Babau proved somewhat more of a challenge to the group, but the next area was a surprise to all – in a vast chamber, with 40-foot ceilings, the group found Razorhorn, the Green Dragon.

Rather than assault the dragon, the group attempted first to negotiate an alliance with Razorhorn against the Drow. Razorhorn refuses to betray his allies, and eventually attacks the group. In very short order, they defeat Razorhorn, and spend some time sifting through the small collection of treasure in this area, before continuing on into the observatory proper.

Armageddon Found

After spending time recovering in the Elven camp, the group were again approached by Eviana with a new mission. Rumours had reached her of a glowing light being seen at night from the Coliseum of Mask and Lyre, on the north eastern corner of the city ruins. Eviana told the group about the former muse of the Coliseum, and her hope that she may still be there. She asked the group to attempt to make contact, and possibly gather the muse as an ally for the Elves. Thankfully, Eviana was not too familliar with the group’s history of spirit negotiations…

The group rested for the day, and approached the Coliseum at night. Seeing the soft glow of light emanating from a hole in the walls, they sent the majority of the group quietly to this entrance, while the plate-wearing cleric stomped noisily to the front door, and opened it.

Inside the building, the group were met by an unusual sight – a small, glowing ball of light floated through the ruined hall, humming eerie music, while a hulking grey creature made of muscle, and standing twice as tall as a man, watched in enraptured fascination.

Taking the strange vista in their stride, the group immediately attempted to attack the ball of light. The light ball stopped singing, and an enraged look came onto the features of the grey muscled creature. Unknown to the group, the ball of light was a will-o’-wisp, and the muscled creature a Grey Render that had bonded itself to the will-o’-wisp. Without the ‘singing’, the Render decided the group was a threat.

The dwarven tactician first tried to attack the wisp, but found it to be slippery customer, as it evaded his blows. The rest of the group followed his lead, although the majority of them attacked the Grey Render rather than the wisp. The wisp, after once harming the dwarf, was pelted by magic missiles from the sorceror, and so turned his attention that way on future rounds. Turning invisible, the wisp glided over to the sorceror and zapped him. Knowing how dangerous the wisp was, the sorceror attempted a self-targeted Glitterdust, and blinded himself, although he did reveal the location of the wisp.

The rest of the group had meanwhile downed the Render, and turned their attention on the wisp. After a short combat, the wisp was also defeated. The group then spent some time searching the Coliseum.

Almost immediately, they stumbled on what appeared to be the nest of several lizards…which turned out to be Shocker Lizards. All 5 of them surrounded the party in a coordinated fashion, and let fly with a blast of lightning, totally unaware that at least 2 of the group were resistant to this energy type. As the group moved in and killed the lizards quickly, the second threat of the room revealed itself – another Shambling Moung, living in symbiosis with the shocker lizards. Having met one of these creatures before, however, the group made quick work of it.

Continuing their search, the group eventually located the concealed descent to the Ossuary. Once in the Ossuary, the group faced the spirit of Jochareil, the spirit of the ancient Aasimar muse of the Coliseum. Attempting to negotiate with the spirit proved futile, as the years of her lone imprisonment in her abandoned home had sent her hopelessly insane. The group instead used their ghost-killing experience to put her down again temporaily, knowing that she was likely to reincorporate again, unless the mission keeping her on the material plane was fulfilled. The cleric was convinced that this mission was protecting the Coliseum, and that it was likely to be fulfilled by the Elves again occupying Celwynvian.

Returning again to camp, the group recovered from their exertions before being approached by Eviana with their next task.

Eviana declared that the time had come to make a decisive blow in the war to retake the city from the Drow. It was time to attack the site of the Armageddon Echo – the Academy of the Arts.

Eviana outlined her plan – the majority of the Elven forces would keep the Drow around the city engaged, clearing a path to the Academy. Three small groups would then assault the Academy, and bring the war to a close. The player group, and two Elven groups, led by Kaerishiel and Shalelu. Now subdued and deferential to the group, in gratitude for their rescue, Kaerishiel asked the group which of the three entrance points they wished to breach.

Choosing the most heavily guarded portal, the group rushed the front door. The handful of drow guarding the gate proved as little of a challenge as their brethren. Inside the building, though, the first real threat attacked the group – a hideous amalgamation of animated Elven corpses, wiedling double bows! And still, the group fought through this abomination, and brought it low.

Moving into the interior of the Acadmey, the group found a trail of blood, and followed it. They emerged into a room with a large pool of water in it, and an inactive elf-gate. Lying on a lilly pad in the centre of the pool was an Elven captive, who immediately implored the group for help. Unsure of what to do, but sure something was amiss, the group began talking to the Elf. Seeing their lack of action, the Elf dominated the Sorceror, who started moving to assist.

The Cleric triggered a recently-found artifact to encircle himself in a circle of magical protection, removing the Elf’s influence from the Sorceror. The group began to attack the Elf, and she again used her domination power, this time on the dwarven soldier. And this time, her power overcame the circle of protection.

The dwarven soldier began to attack his allies in an effort to protect the Elf, and in the confusion, the elf slipped under the water, and did not return. Unknown to the group, the Elf had been an Aboleth hidden by illusion, and slipped out of the Academy via an underwater tunnel. With more important tasks to pursue, the group let it leave, and moved into the next chamber.

Greeting the group was a hulking Drow with a greatsword, standing in front of an active portal. The group quickly engaged the drow, and managed to put him down in very quick order (I believe it was a single crit…).

The portal began to flicker, and the sorceror let everyone know this meant the portal was nearing the end of it’s activation. Through the portal, a vista was visible of the city of Celwynvian, but not in it’s current ruined state. Instead, the portal showed Celwynvian as a live city. The group also noted that the capstone of the portal was different to the rest of its construction. Clearly the capstone was the stolen chunk of the Cyphergate in Riddleport.

With little time to act before it deactivated, the group stepped through the portal.

War Against Darkness

Capitalising on their earlier success, the group was sent by Eviana to assault an Alchemical laboratory, the source of much of the drow poisons and alechemical devices.

Arriving at the site, the group found a ruined structure, surrounded by toxic alchemical waste. Quickly preparing, they hasted and shielded themselves, and began their moves into the ruin…at which point, a drider revealed itself, and lightning bolted most of the party. The group quickly split itself – the Fetchling and archer taking on the drider, while the Cleric, mission specialist and sorcerer continued into the main lab.

The drider was tough, but eventually fell to the wait of arrows from the Zen archer, while the unexpected reach of the summoner stopped the drider from moving away. Even a last-ditch invisibility was not enough to protect the creature from the steel rain.

In the meantime, the sorcerer sent a lightning ball into the main lab, clearing out a group of 6 troglodytes with little effort. The heavily armoured dwarf made full use of the haste effect to rush across the room and engage the drow alchemist, while the cleric supported. Despite several attempted spells from the alchemist, she was taken down with little damage to the group.

After the battle, the group were unsure of the best way to deal with the alchemical supplies. So, they resorted to the old standard, and fireballed the room. This released a cloud of toxic vapours into the air, which continued to plague the war effort for several days to come.

Just as the group were leaving, a lone drow captain arrived at the lab for a status report. The dwarven archer, with a single volley, killed the captain before she could even react.

On their way back to the elven encampment, a lone elven scout arrived, and appraised the group of an impending disaster – Kaerishiel and a band of his scouts had been trapped in a ruined tower by a drow alchemical ballista. Moving around the edge of the city, the party attempted to come to his rescue.

Along the way, the group encountered and slew a pair of shambling mounds. Although the plant creatures did put up a fight, and one was briefly bolstered by an electrical burst, they were no match for the party.

Arriving at the location given to them by the scout, the group found the elven scouts mostly unconscious, and pinned down inside an old tower. Directly across from this tower, a group of drow manned a ballista armed with alchemical fire bolts. After the application of another haste spell, and a fly spell on the dwarven archer, the cleric moved into the open, and took shelter behind his tower shield, drawing the drow fire. Meanwhile, the flying archer took aim and downed 2 of the drow, and the flying summoner zoomed over to engage the last few drow alone. A short time later, the dwarven tank caught up, and helped mop up the remaining drow.

While escorting Kaerishiel and his scouts back to the Elven camp, the group was ambushed by a patrol of 3 driders. Despite the quick dispatch of the drider at the alchemy lab, the party’s drained resources and the surprise round of 3 coordinated lightning bolts almost told true, and 2 of the party fell unconscious – the healer and archer. The synthesist and summoner, both resistant to lightning, both moved to tie up the driders, and assist the dwarven tank, also sorely wounded. After some coordinated efforts to get the cleric and archer back on their feet, the group fought back doggedly, and were eventually able to defeat all 3 driders, and make their way back to camp to recover.

Forest Assault

After returning to the road to Crying Leaf, the group were quickly approached by a group of Velashu Horse Lords, inquiring about the current state of Riddleport. The nomadic tribesmen were leading a dozen horses, ready for sale in the port. The group bartered a trade for an item, in return for horses for each of them.

A short while later, the group entered the forest proper, mounted on their fine steeds. And were promptly attacked by a trio of Forest Drakes, intent on slaughtering them for fresh meat. Despite some early difficulties, the group quickly found their feet and fought back. After a pair of crackling lightning balls, and uncannily accurate bowfire, the drakes were felled.

A group of 5 elves then revealed themselves, stepping from the leafy shadows. Their leader quickly asked the group their business, and the human cleric over-rode the fetchling’s flippant reply, saying they were here to deliver important information to the Shin’Rakorath. The leader tersely introduced himself as Kaerishiel Neirenar, and confirmed they were expecting the party. He then commanded the group to follow, and left for the village.

Thinking quickly, the fetchling summoner cast Ant Haul on his horse, and himself, and loaded the Drake carcasses onto his steed for later butchering.

After a short, but silent, journey through the borders of the Mierani, the group arrived at the village of Crying Leaf. The village showed the signs of recent battle. Several buildings were scorched, and most citizens were armed with sword or bow.

Kaerishiel led the group to a low stone building, and then took his leave. The group cleaned themselves up, and refreshed themselves from the freshly harvested fruits and vegetables supplied to them. After an hour, Kaerishiel returned and led the group to see the leader of the village, Eviana Nirgassan.

Eviana, a strikingly beautiful Elven woman, dressed in a rich gown, introduced herself, and asked that the group give their word not to spread details of what happens in the Mierani beyond its borders. The group quickly assented. Eviana then asked to see the information they had brought, and the group presented the drow journals.

After a review of the contents, Eviana offers the group a pouch containing 200pp in payment, but the human cleric refused, asking if they could perhaps accept goods instead. A deal was made to provide the fetchling with fine elven chain.

Eviana then went into detail of the situation they face – how the drow have a strong presence in Celwynvian, yet are difficult to bring to battle. How each time the ruins are attacked in force, the drow disappear, only to return later in strength. Prior to this, Eviana and Kaerishiel believed the drow were somehow retreating to the Darklands, but the information contained in the journals revealed the truth. In fact, the drow were retreating to some extra-dimensional space known as the Armageddon Echo.

Eviana informed the group that she needed to confer with her contacts in Kyonin, but asked if they would wait until the matter had been decided. She felt that the group would be an asset in any battles to come, and that she would be willing to pay rates equal to those paid to the Shin’Rakorath. Both of the observant dwarves in the group noted at this point that Kaerishiel was angry over Eviana’s words, though concealing it.

The group returned to their accommodation, and spent the afternoon looking around the village. With not much to see, they enjoyed and evening meal of roasted vegetables, bread and wine, and retired.

The next day, Eviana again called the group to her conference room. Unlike the previous day, Eviana was dressed in shining elven mail, a blade at her hip. A number of other armoured elves were also present, poring over maps of the ruined city of Celwynvian. Greeting the group, Eviana informed them that the decision had been made to bring war to the drow, and to attempt to reclaim the ruined city for good. Eviana asked the group if they would join the efforts, and they quickly agreed, without even asking about a fee.

Kaerishiel escorted the group to their lodgings again, but stopped once the building was in sight, saying ‘I think you can find your way from here. I am done guiding you. You have no idea of the danger you have walked into.’

4 hours later, the armed forces of Crying Leaf were arrayed for battle. Leaving only a small contingent of elves to defend and maintain Crying Leaf, the main force moved out of the village, headed for the ruined city. Unlike a human or dwarven army, the elven force was not ranked or in columns. Instead, they marched in skirmish groups of 4-8, giving them better capability to navigate through the forest, and to give the enemy smaller targets should they be discovered.

The journey to the city took just over a day, with a camp roughly halfway. The journey was largely without event, the forest predators giving the elven host a wide berth. During the trip, Kaerishiel’s distrustful gaze was never far from the party.

The host arrived at the city, and camp was made. Tents were provided to the group. In the evening, a dinner was held for the army commanders. Early in the evening, Eviana refused to talk of the coming battles, and instead asked of the flora and fauna in this part of the forest. Whispers were heard of the great forest wyrm, Razorhorn, who had sided with the drow.

After dinner, a strategy and planning session was held. The leader of the scouts in this area, Shalelu Andosana, presented her report on the ruins, and outlined the way into the city. A basic plan for assaulting the city was quickly laid out, and then contingencies of all sorts were discussed. Eviana asked the group if they would assist with taking one of the drow watchposts, a ruined library. Kaerishiel vehemently disagreed, stating that his men should be entrusted with taking the library, while the party instead is used to guard the camp. The group, predictably, disagreed, and in fact they should be at the vanguard of the assault. In the end, Eviana decided to follow through with her original plan, and have the group assault the library. For the rest of the meeting, Kaerishiel throws cold glares at the group whenever no one else is watching him.

The next morning, the group assembled before the ruined library. After a quick check for enemies revealed a watch on the roof, preparatory spells were cast, and the group hastily attack. In the space of less than a minute, 6 drow foot soldiers, 3 giant spiders and 6 dretches are dispatched, and a female drow captain captured. Searching the library itself revealed a number of useful items of intelligence – an ancient globe containing the intellect of one of the original librarians, and a number of books on one of two subjects – astronomy and the Great Beyond. Of particular note, one bookmark denotes a page dealing with the properties of the ‘realm of shadows’, and how time can be ‘mutable in such a domain’.

Relieved by elven scouts, the party returned to the command post, and found Eviana. The human cleric presented her with the globe and books, and Eviana thanked him. She then gave them their next assignment – the Alchemical Workshop.

Trip to the Mierani

The dwarven core of the original group of adventurers, Segnar the tactician and Arras the Archer, along with the recent magical addition to their group, searched for replacements for John Dalton and the Holy Ninja. After a short time, they found a human cleric, carrying a tower shield, and a shadowy emissary of the fetchlings.

The reformed group were approached by Kwava, who asked them to personally deliver the journals they had found to the Shin’Rakorath, in Crying Leaf, on the edge of the Mierani Forest.

Agreeing readily, the group geared up for travel, and left Riddleport behind them. Following the winding dirt road north alongside the Velashu River for the first two days of travel, the group eventually arrived at a small hunter’s trail, branching off to the west, around the Calphiak mountains. A short way along the trail, the group discovered a waystation with an inn, and decided to stay for the night.

The next morning, just as the group were preparing to leave, a man stumbled into the village with a tale of an attack on a lumber camp in the foothills of the mountains. The innkeeper asked the group to look into the attack, and with some reluctance, they agreed to do so.

The group followed a trail north into the mountains. Along the trail, they encountered a strange sight – in the middle of the road was a wriggling arm, green-skinned and covered in warts, apparently severed at the shoulder. The knowledgable members of the group immediately suspected trolls, and had their suspicions confirmed when a large troll stepped out of the woods, carrying the corpse of a dwarf. Reacting quickly, the group dispatched the troll with little effort.

A short while later, a sound of booming footsteps echoed through the air, and an angry-looking female Hill Giant strode into view. She asked the group if they had seen her husband – he has not been home for several days, and she has found his wedding ring, discarded in the undergrowth. The group had not seen him, and could not help, but promised to keep an eye out for him.

(Yes, for those keeping score at home, I do believe this is the first social encounter the group has had that did NOT inadvertently end up in a combat…)

Arriving at the lumber camp, the group found that it was covered in a pall of smoke and mist. Outside the nearest building were several corpses, a mix of humans and kobolds. The cleric approached to examine the bodies, despite some of his companions warning of possible undeath. The cleric scoffed, saying that nobody would ever bother reanimating a kobold. At which point, the zombie kobolds promptly attacked.

After easily dispatching the zombies, and their support, the group continued to explore the lumber camp. Moving through several buildings, they blundered through a number of kobold traps, dispatching all resistance before them. Even the mighty kobold druid, Depnaakra, and his Scorpion companion were no match for the group.

The group next followed the simple trail left by the kobolds away from the lumber camp, and further into the wooded foothills. They shortly arrived at an ancient Azlanti burial mound. Fighting Shadow guardians at the entrance to the mound, and Water elementals, a belker, and Wights inside the tomb, they finally found their way to the architect of this plot – Merlokrep, the Wight Kobold King, and his undead scale-shields (hey, look – more undead Kobolds!).

Despite the horror of energy draining, Merlokrep and his guardians were quickly laid to rest by the group. Searching the tomb, they discovered the sarcophagus of the tomb’s actual owner, sealed with an arcane lock. Opening the coffin, they discovered the prince’s scepter (a magical rod of empowerment), and a stone tablet, carved with the words ‘Zelfin Cova’.

Their work done, the group returned to the inn, and were given the waystation’s thanks, and a free night of accomodation, before they returned to the road.

Assault on the Sea Caves

(GM Note – This post covers two related sessions, as I was slack and didn’t write up the previous session)

The following day, the group started in on their first tasks – to locate more noqual, and to capture an Akata alive. After a quick hunt around the local area, the group was able to locate a group of Akata, and were able to knock one unconscious. This creature was returned to the cages at camp. They once again asked for payment from Clegg Zincher in raw noqual ore.

That night, there was an attack on the camp by a small number of Void Zombies and Akata, and they were fought off relatively quickly.

Later in the night, Segnar, on watch, observed Clegg Zincher sneaking out of camp. Not wanting to awaken everybody, or alert Clegg, he work Vanessada, and set her to trailing Clegg. Clegg followed a mostly-hidden trail from the camp, to the cliff at the southern edge of the island. At the cliff, Clegg followed a hidden ledge down the face, and then stopped in front of the cliff face. After a short time, part of the cliff face swung open, and Clegg entered. Not wanting to be caught, Vanessada returned to camp, and informed Segnar of all that had transpired.

The following morning, under pretense of scouting for further noqual, the group instead followed the trail, and investigated the cliff face. After some time spent working out how to spring the entrance open, the group were confronted by Drow soldiers inside a hidden cave. A seemingly short battle started, but very soon, several other combatants had joined the fray – a Drow Druid, and his lizard pet, who blanketed the area with an Obscuring Mist, and then a Shadowy Demon creature. The Drow soldiers, Druid and pet were all dispatched qquickly, but the Demon took more resources and time to put down. Just when the group was making headway, the Demon suddenly melted to shadow and fled.

Rather than push forward, the group decided to retreat, and explore behind it. A collapsed tunnel was discovered, and a boarded-up entrance to another cave. The boards were covered in Undercommon runes that read ‘Do Not Enter!’. So, of course, the group broke down the boards, and entered.

Inside the dead-end cave, the group were confronted by a ghostly woman-headed bird. Vanessada quickly realised this was the ghost of Virashi, and taunted her by saying ‘Your boyfriend’s dead!’ Enraged, Virashi attacked. In the ensuing battle, the party was again mildly injured, but Virashi was destroyed.

The first session ended here, as the group recovered, and waited for the Obscuring Mist to dissolve.

At the beginning of the second session, the group moved through the tunnel, now clear of mist. Seeing options to go North or South, they moved southwards, towards the cliff face. At the end of this tunnel, a cave was found that appeared to have served as the Drow Druid’s quarters and lab. A partially dissected Akata corpse was here, and showed signs of having been experimented on. The cave also had a peephole, looking out over the ledge and secret cave entrance. The group quickly searched the room, but found ntohign of interest.

Moving back down the tunnel to the north, another set of quarters was found, with only personal belongings. To the west, the only way onwards was covered with a sheet of leather, through which could be heard the roar of the sea.

Past the leather barrier, the group were confronted with a very large natural cavern, open to the ocean. At least 80’ high, 3 large columns of stone broke apart what would otherwise have been a large pool of water, surging as fed from the sea. A trickling waterfall to the north showed the origin of the cave. Wooden platforms led from the beaches ringing the cavern to the other side. The very perceptive group immediately saw a pair of Drow guards hiding on the platforms, and a more commanding Drow woman named Shindiira (as the group would discover later) on the far side of the cave, packing a trunk with belongings.

Vanessada, acting quickly, seized another chance to use her drow boots, and ran around the edge of the cavern wall, directly to the Shindiira. Meanwhile, the rest of the group moved to engage the Drow soldiers. A Glitterdust spell disabled both of them briefly, and John Dalton and the Dwarf archer quickly advanced into missile range, and started pelting the pair. Segnar, slowed by his armour, made his way onto the platform towards the soldiers, backed up by the Sorceror.

The Drow leader, dazed her lone opponent with a touch, and stepped back towards the water. On the following round, Shindiira attempted to Suggest that Vanessada go for a swim, but the Elf showed her kind’s resilience to charming effects, and stabbed her. Shindiira, confident in her abillities, began casting a spell, only to have Vanessada stab her again in response. Used to pain, Shindiira completed her Waterwalk spell. Suddenly, a blur of black and white motion surged out of the water – a huge Orca attacked Vanessada, biting her and injuring her badly. Thinking quickly, and not wanting her opponent to escape, Vanessada moved in and grabbed Shindiira, then ran up the wall while carrying her, and dropped her, thinking to dash her over the rocky ledge. Shindiira laughed, while featherfalling to the ground, and then walked out onto the surface of the water.

Back on the other side of the cavern, the soldiers became part of a pratfall series of events. Hand crossbow bolts bouncing from his steel shell, Segnar advanced up to one of the drow, and engaged him. The sorceror moved behind Segnar, and caused him to vanish. Seeing an opportunity to introduce Segnar to the Orca, the drow attempted to push Segnar’s now invisible form off the platform, but fumbled the attempt. Segnar used his agility to sidestep the Drow, and end up behind him, and finished him off. The second drow soldier backed away, firing his crossbow ineffectually again, and Segnar finished him off. Sensing the threat in the drow woman, Segnar moved to the edge of the platform, and shot at her with a crossbow. The sorceror moved up beside segnar, and attempted to burn the Orca. The Orca, enraged, surged across the cavern, and flying up out of the water, bit the sorceror. Shindiira, seeing an oppotuniry to cause harm, chanelled the evil will of her patron, and severely wounded Vanessada, Segnar and the cleric. Panicked, the sorceror attempted to back away from the Orca, not realising just how far out of the water it could reach, and then tried to cast another spell. The Orca reacted, and cut the sorceror down.

At the same time, the archer attempted to slow the Orca down from range. John, seeing an opportunity to rescue his downed companion, flung himself into the water, and began acting as a distressed fish, to attract the attention of the Orca. Amazingly, the Orca immediately moved over to John, and attempted to bite him. John, for his part, also attempted to grapple the Orca, but for his troubles, was bitten again with little effect. Shindiira moved over behind her pet, and sent out another pulse of evil energy. Vanessada channeled the will of Callistria to counter these effects. Shindiira, seeing half of the group busy with her pet, moved around onto the platform at the front of the cave, intending to run out the front. Segnar, sensing victory, jumped over a gap in the platform to get to his enemy…and, mistiming his step, fell instead down into the water below, and found himself struggling to keep his head above the surging tide.

After releasing one final wave of evil power, Shindiira fled out the front of the seacave, running along the tops of the waves. Faced with the choice of chasing after a powerful opponent alone, and keeping her friends alive, Vanessada stayed, and again channeled her goddess’s will, saving the sorceror, and healing the others. Shortly afterwards, the group finished off the Orca.

In the aftermath of the battle, the group decided to fortify the cave they were in, and spend the rest of day resting and healing. Ransacking the cavern, the group uncovered a supply cache, and discovered a number of clues as to the activities of the Drow on the island. Apparently, the Drow had used powerful magic to pull down the skystone. The devastation of Devil’s Elbow was the testfiring of a terribly powerful weapon. Among the belongings, they also found a map of Celwynvian, along with markings of Drow patrol routes.

The following day, the group explored the remaining areas of the island – the two lighthouses at either end. Travelling first to the eastern end of the island, they passed through Clegg Zincher’s camp, only to find it thoroughly deserted. At the eastern lighthouse, they found it mostly intact, but the only item of interest was a long-dead corpse at he bottom of the cliff, clutching a magical sword. While examining this find, the group was attacked by a Hydra lurching out of the water, but the creature proved no threat, and died quickly. Crucially, though, after this encounter, the group neglected to heal their wounds.

Travelling to the other end of the island, and arriving at dusk, the group found the other lighthouse to be collapsed. Amongst the rubble, they disturbed a nest of Giant Centipedes. Although these proved to be no more challenging than the Hydra, as the group finished them off, a more powerful foe. Emerging from the gloom, a shadowy, insubstantial ghost raked Segnar, ignoring his heavy armour, draining some of his vitality. The group, quickly realising this creature was a wraith, surrounded it. Vanessada pulsed again with the channeled might of her goddess, while the sorceror fired off volley after volley of magic missiles. John attempted to distract the ghost to give Segnar a better chance to hit it with his magical weapon, while the Dwarven monk dropped his bow, and began punching with his potent fists. Segnar then noticed that the ghost was wearing 200-year-old fashion. Vanessada, immediately realising that this was the ghost of Yaris, the man who had built the town of Witchlight, taunted him with ‘I killed your girlfriend’.

Enraged at this news, Yaris turned on Vanessada, and slew her outright with one touch. This would normally have been quite unlikely, except that Vanessada had been badly hurt by the Hydra, but had not healed herself. The life-draining effect of the wraith combined with this damage to kill her outright.
After this event, the rest of the group redoubeld its efforts, and quickly dispatched the vengeful wraith, with no further loss. They then found themselves faced with a wraithly version of their former ally, but quickly destroyed it. Finally weary of the island of Devil’s Elbow, the group called in their transport, and carried the body of their friend back to Riddleport.

The Fall of Witchlight Tower

As the group finished their conversation with Samaritha about the Cyphermage’s situation, a call from the watch above sounded, bringing chills – ‘Here they come again!’

A large swarm of Akatas stampeded silently out of the surrounding woods, and began to look for any way into the Witchlight Watchtower. Pounding on doors and shuttered windows, they flowed over the tower like a tide of night.

The group began to attack the Akatas as best they could from their vantage points, on the observation level of the tower, and from the arrow slits. Akatas fell, only to be replaced by their fellows, still beating at the various entrances to the tower. Then, a tremor shook the tower. Segnar was immediately aware of what was happening – the tower itself was a solid lump of rock, extruded from the ground and strengthened with interior supports. However, it stood on a ridge, overlooking the sea. The weight of the Akatas was causing the ground around the tower to become unstable, and it was likely only a matter of time before it gave way.

The group continued to rain missiles, acid and bombs onto the Akatas, until one of them finally broke through on the bottom floor, and mauled one of the remaining cyphermages. Segnar and Vanessada ran downstairs to stem the tide. Another, stronger, tremor shook the tower, knocking several people from their feet.

Seeing what was likely to happen, John prepared to leap from the tower. On the bottom floor, Segnar moved in to plug the breach in the defences, preventing any further Akatas from gaining entrance, while Vanessada moved to stabilise the cyphermage who had been injured in the breakthrough. And that was when the foundations the tower had been raised on collapsed.

The tower, being quite strongly constructed, fell over onto its side and began to roll down the slope, towards the lagoon below. In the chaos that ensued, several of the party were able to extricate themselves from the tower, and rode the avalanche of soil in its wake to the bottom.

As the tower and debris hit the water, a strange thing happened – all of the Akatas in the water suddenly began silently thrashing, as the sea water burned them like acid. After a short time, nothing remained of any of the strange creatures that had been swept into the water.

After rescuing the cyphermages from the wreckage of the tower, the group made camp on the beach, seeing this as the safest place in case of further Akata attack. Contact with the Captain of the Cloud Dancer was made, and he arranged to be at the docks the next morning.

During the night, a pair of harpies attacked the camp, but the group was able to fend them off with little trouble.

The following morning, the group and the Cyphermages made the arduous trek up the ridge back to Witchlight, and then down the trail to the docks to meet the Cloud Dancer. The surviving Cyphermages gratefully boarded the vessel, with Samaritha promising to get in touch via Sending every 48 hours.

The group then trekked back onto the island, towards the crater. After some time travelling through the wilderness, they began to search the crater for signs of skymetal, or other items of interest. A small quantity of skymetal was recovered, but nowhere near as much as would be expected from the size of the blast, despite spending quite some time searching. John briefly set up a research site, to examine the remains of the Akatas and the skymetal, and sure enough, a small group of Akatas attacked.

Moving on the next morning, the group began to make their way towards the ruined tower at the eastern end of the island. Along the way, they met with a patrol of thugs, led by Akron Erix, Clegg Zincher’s right-hand man. John immediately asked for an audience with Clegg, and the group was taken to their camp.

The camp itself seemed to be setting up for the long haul. A partial palisade had already been erected, and it was clear that it was being extended to eventually surround the entire camp. Empty wooden cages had been built at the rear of the encampment as well. Clegg’s pavillion, and immense red tent 15 feet tall and twenty feet wide, was just as ostentatious inside as out. Divided into two rooms, the ‘sitting room’ the party was led into was opulent.

After a short while, Clegg spoke to the group, and basically outlined his plan to capture Akatas for his arena. He requested that the group help out with a few tasks, namely capturing some Akatas alive, and perhaps helping to remove some of the larva from his infected men, without killing the larva. The group readily agreed, and Clegg said his men would pitch a new tent for them, right near his.

Segnar noticed during the conversation that Clegg had acted a little strangely. He had avoided saying certain things, and used strange ways of saying others. Segnar was convinced that Clegg was under a magical charm of some sort.

John and Vanessada were shown to the infirmary tent by Akron. Both worked to save the few infected men, while John also attempted to remove the larval Akatas alive. The first attempt resulted in the host living, but the parasites dying. Akron told the pair that he knew Clegg’s priority was for the larva to survive, and so they retried their efforts, and were able to save both on the second attempt.

At this point, the group retired for the night, and the session came to an end.

Great Skymetal Rush

After the tsunami, and the climactic combat with Depora Azrinae, the party relaxed and performed some mercantile activities for the next few weeks. Although they were eager to investigate Devils Elbow, the damage inflicted by the tsunami and the number of other expeditions already underway meant they could not find passage.

Segnar was able to tell the rest of the group about no less than four other expeditions – the Gas Forges (supported by the Overlord), Avery Slyeg, Clegg Zincher and the Cyphermages.

First order of business was finding a buyer for the Gold Goblin. John Dalton first approached Clegg Zincher, but no answer was forthcoming. The local manager of the Gas Forges, Tromard Roldheim, approached the group with an offer, though – an overall price of 20,000 gold, with 8,000 up front, and another 1,000gp a month. Also, in addition to cash, Tromard offered goods from the forges at a discount of 20% off the normal price, such as Adamantine. Since this was the first time the group had the luxury of selling off a large number of items, and in turn stocking up, stock up they did on a number of improvements to the group’s gear.

Once the shopping was done, Kwava approached the group again with a request. His superiors had been in contact, and had asked if the party would investigate the Drow installation on Devil’s Elbow for them. To aid with this, they had hired passage on a vessel named the Flying Cloud.

The captain of the Cloud, one Josper Creesy, invited the party to dinner on his vessel to get to know them better. Over dinner, the captain regaled the party with the tale of Devils Elbow, and Virashi’s Curse. The group were fascinated by the tale, but as it drew to a conclusion, Vanessada and Arras noticed a crackling noise from outside. A voice called out ‘Fire! Fire on the Docks!’

Glancing out the portholes, it was immediately noticable that the fire had caught on the rigging and sails. On shore, some helpful people were already cutting the hawsers holding the Cloud in place. Standard procedure at the Riddleport docks is to cut burning vessels adrift, to avoid any danger of the fire spreading to other ships. However, most of the group discerened that the people cutting the lines were likely doing more than their civic duty. Segnar opened fire from the porthole, and the rest of the group ran outside to give chase. After a short but brutal battle, the attackers were dealt with, and the fires extinguished. Still, damage had been done, and a day was required to repair the rigging and replace the sails.

Once the repairs were complete, the 5 hour journey to Devil’s Elbow was uneventful. Sailing up to the island, the impact site was obvious – a crater hundreds of feet wide, surrounded by an even larger swath or burnt trees that had been knocked flat in a burst pattern around the impact site. The region’s frequent rainstorms and damp conditions had prevented the fire from consuming the entire island, yet in all nearly a quarter of the island’s forest was destroyed by the impact. No signs of life were visible, with the exception of a thin plume of smoke roughly midway between the two lighthouse towers, at the height of the island’s ridge.

Captain Creesy was very nervous as his vessel approached the island. He told the group that he would rather not stay in the region, and instead arranged for a pick-up date. John Dalton agreed to a day a week away, with the proviso that he be able to contact the Captain earlier by magic if required. Captain Creesy agreed, noting the 5 hour trip time from Riddleport. As this arrangement was made, a bright light flashed out from the peak of the island’s central tower, a sparkling blast of pyrotechnics that lasted for several seconds before expiring.

The Cloud sailed up to the old piers to allow the group to disembark, with the Captain saying they would not stay a moment longer than required. As the part made their way to the docks, a voice called out from the seemingly abandoned warehouse buildings. The speaker turned out to be Gravin Goldhammer, the leader of the Gas Forge expedition. Accompanying him were two other dwarves and two humans, all with torn and filthy clothes, looking tired and haggard. Gravin immediately stated he’d had enough of ‘this cursed island’, and requested passage back to Riddleport. A short interrogation of Gravin revealed that they had been attacked by low, fast monsters – none of the survivors of the 13-man expedition had gotten a good look at them. However, some of the expedition had been bitten or slashed, after which their wounds had gone bad. in Gravin’s words ‘Some sort of sick got in them, and then, when they died, it came back out their faces. Torag’s scars, but that were a sight I’d like to unsee. Came right out of their faces like they were tongues, and then my own men attacked us.’ Gravin reported that the men were put back down, and the bodies burned. He urged the group to get back on the Cloud and return to Riddleport with them. Being made of sterner stuff, the group set off into the wilderness.

A short hike up the overgrown path lead to the main village of Witchlight. No repeat of the earlier lights had been seen, but turkey vultures could be seen circling overhead. Five crumbling buildings comprised the remains of the settlement, perched on edge of the island’s central ridge. The only intact building appeared to be the central tower – the other stone buildings were still standing, but none of them seemed to have an intact roof. As the group approached the tower, they found four corpses strewn in the path between the buildings. The fact that the circling scavangers had not yet landed to feed indicated something unusual was happening with the bodies. An examination showed they were slain by numerous slashing blows and what appear to be bite marks. More horrifying, however, was the mutilated nature of their faces. Each body was missing the lower jaw – in its place was a nauseating gray-green, twitching tendril that looked almost like a bloated tongue. As the group approached for a closer look, the bodies all rose up and attacked. Although they reacted more slowly than the party, they still seemed to move much quicker than ‘normal’ animated corpses. However, the sorcerer was sure they were still undead, and attempted to attack with Disrupt Undead. This spell worked, confirming their nature.

After a short combat, during which the ‘zombies’ were eerily silent, the corpses were again laid to rest, and the bodies burned. The group moved on again to the central tower.

The fifty foot tall circular watchtower, standing on the edge of a steep slope overlooking the sea, was made of stone. However, no seams or individual blocks were apparent – it was as if the entire tower had been formed from one block of stone. An enclosed octagonal platform protruded from the tower roof. A small, reinforced barracks was attached to the bottom floor of the tower, and the only entrance appeared to be through here. The outer door, once made of solid oak, collapsed entirely as soon as touched. The room inside was empty, but spattered with blood and other signs of combat.

The group approached the internal door, which was made of solid iron. Unsure what else to do, they knocked. The viewing portal slid back, revealing a pair of familliar green eyes. Samaritha Beldusk opened the door, exclaiming her relief at seeing familliar faces.

Inside the tower, Samaritha explained to the group what had befallen her. Apprenticed to Fenella Bromathan, Samaritha had accompanied her new master on the Cyphermage expedition to the island, along with 10 other minor wizards. In the first two days of the expedition, the Cyphermages made camp in the ruins of Witchlight, and looked for signs of skymetal. There did not seem to be ‘enough’ skymetal, considering the number of craters on the island, which the mages initially put down to the activities of other prospectors. Now, the survivors have come to suspect other reasons. Two nights before the group arrived, the mage’s camp was attacked by large numbers of creatures, and were torn apart. The few that survived, including Samaritha, did so by retreating inside the watchtower and barricading the door. They could do little more than watch as the bodies of their dead, left in the rubble, rose and staggered off into the surrounding woodlands.

Fenella was among the first to die on the night of the attack. Since then, Samaritha has taken charge of her fellow mages. Periodlically, she travels to the top of the tower to fire off an eye-catching pyrotechnics spells, in hopes of attracting the attention of the others on the island for help. When Goldhammer’s men arrived late yesterday, the cyphermakges thought they were rescued, but could only watch as the men refused to approach the ruins further without being met outside – a tactic that ended poorly for them as they were ambushed and slaughtered by the creatures lurking in the nearby woods. When the mages sighted the Flying Cloud, Samaritha did her best to attract the ship’s attention with another pyrotechnics spell, and had been considering a risky flight down the mountainside to seek aid. Fear of the creatures, and a sense of duty to her fellows too injured to move kept her in the tower until now. She suspects the creatures have noticed the party, and might well be massing for another attack.

Not knowing what to call the creatures, she has described them as best she can. John Dalton recognised them as Akatas, and is aware that they are resistant to magic and venomous, laying their eggs inside the fatal bites. Samaritha finishes by practically begging the party to heal her injured companions and then lead them off the island to safety. After the group explains that the ship will be some time in returning, she says she wishes to remain holed up in the relative safety of the tower until the ship returns, especially now that night is falling.


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